Allegiant Stadium was electric and energy-filled tonight from both BYU and Notre Dame as 62,742 fans witnessed a close match of college football in the 2022 Shamrock Series. Ultimately, the Irish saw victory over the Cougars, 28-20. They never lost the lead, but the win was not always certain. It would not be a Notre Dame game without a borderline heart attack in the second half, and this game certainly fit the bill. The Irish offense did their job consistently well, except in the red zone where Tommy Rees’ questionable play-calling left points off the board. The defense fell short in the second half and cost the team a substantial lead, but the Irish were able to pull it together and perform when it mattered most. Notre Dame showed what they could do on offense — something Irish fans have been waiting to see. The defense was frustratingly inconsistent but created the 4th down stop when needed.
A TaRiq Bracy interception starts things off right for the Irish
Notre Dame won the toss and deferred to the second half, but BYU certainly did not have the ball long. Right out of the gate on first-and-10, Irish graduate student cornerback TaRiq Bracy picked off a massively underthrown ball by Cougar’s quarterback Jaren Hall. BYU has seemingly owned the turnover battle this season, but Bracy humbled them early in the game.
Bracy’s turnover marks the Irish’s first interception of the season and a big moment for the Irish defense. This allowed the Irish to gain possession and make it 3-0 with a field goal. Bracy apparently injured his hamstring at the end of the game and his status for next week is unknown at this point, but he significantly contributed tonight.
Michael Mayer leads Irish offense in record-breaking performance
“Drew Pyne’s pass complete to Michael Mayer” echoed repeatedly this Saturday night in Allegiant Stadium. Consistently present to receive junior quarterback Pyne’s passes, Mayer helped the Irish rack up big yardage throughout the entire game and stole the show in Vegas.
In the second quarter, Mayer’s sixth catch of the game — a touchdown and the 141st reception of his career — allowed him to surpass former Irish All-American Tyler Eifert atop Notre Dame’s career reception list for tight ends. This momentous moment for Mayer was certainly well deserved Saturday night as he racked up 118 yards and amassed two touchdowns. Mayer was a key component of the Irish’s successful performance tonight.
Jayden Thomas’ stellar 30 yd touchdown catch grants Irish steady lead
Cheers erupted at the end of the second quarter as sophomore wide receiver Jayden Thomas received a 30-yard pass from Pyne and ran for an Irish touchdown. This was the first touchdown of the Georgia native’s career and helped the Irish gain a steady lead against the Cougars. The spiral by Pyne and stellar catch by Thomas in the final minute of the quarter certainly made this one of the top plays of the game. With the score at 18-6, the Irish were sitting in a comfortable spot heading into the second half. That is, until the Cougars had something to say about it.
A sheer struggle from the Notre Dame defense in the second half allows BYU back in the game
Though Notre Dame’s offense has typically been characterized as the weaker link this season, the defense almost cost the Irish their lead. The Cougars came out of the gate hot in the second half, and the Irish defense lacked the momentum to deal with this. The defense performed decently in the first half, only letting in one touchdown for the Cougars in an otherwise solid performance. An interception by Bracy had things looking bright, but this quickly shifted around in the second half.
Notre Dame’s poor tackling performance and lack of communication by the secondary allowed BYU to get back into the game after trailing by double digits. Giving up chunk plays in the second half, a trend that has consistently repeated itself this season, allowed BYU to rally. What should have been a 3-and-out for the Notre Dame defense turned into an 87-yard, 10-play scoring drive for BYU. As the momentum shifted, BYU fans got louder, and the Irish defense sank lower. Luckily, the Notre Dame defense had a huge 4th-down stop to save the day and secure the Irish victory.
Pynes’s play continues to develop consistency and effectiveness
Tommy Rees will surely be more content this week after quarterback Drew Pyne continued to build upon the consistency he began showing during his first start against Cal and expanded upon in the Irish’s matchup against UNC. Pyne threw for 262 yards with three touchdowns and was an efficient 22-28 with only one interception, which was tipped at the line. He spread the ball around to seven different Irish receivers and remained cool and confident under pressure.